Meet Prolific Poet and Cystic Fibrosis Warrior Lauren Molasky Fierst
You know when you read something and find yourself feeling light, airy and grounded at the same time? A few simple words can totally transform your state of mind -- such is the power of poetry. Well, today's edition of Creative Crushin' is about to transform you.
A couple months ago, in the midst of pandemic entertainment desperation, I received a book in the mail. I didn't know the backstory behind the writer, but knew I was happy to have a new kids' book in the house, especially one with a "list" (aka a table of contents — huge points for my toddler right now). Immediately I was drawn into The Sky Cracked Open, a lighthearted tome of sweet poems that immediately brought me back to my days of reading Shel Silverstein on the Laura Ashley sheets of my childhood bedroom, while my brother blasted Def Leppard in the background.
Anjelika Temple here, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Brit + Co, lover of poetry, mother of two crazy kiddos, and absolutely humbled to be able to share a snippet of Lauren Molasky Fierst's creative journey. Writer and mother Fierst has been writing her collection of poetry all while battling what's been described as the "invisible disease," cystic fibrosis. While awaiting a double lung transplant, she turned the silly things her kiddos say and do into 65 poems, inspired by "65 roses," the nickname for cystic fibrosis. Read on to hear about Lauren's journey and what keeps her inspired.
Anjelika Temple: Let's start with your roots.
Lauren Molasky Fierst: I grew up in Las Vegas and lived there until I was 32, then moved to Malibu so that my kids could be near their cousins. I have an 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter and we recently moved to Thousand Oaks. Directly out of high school I began a clothing line which I designed for 5 years. I love designing and creating clothing, but I stopped doing so when I had my first child. Design and fashion will always be something I love with all my heart and soul. When my daughter was going into preschool I craved having a creative outlet once again and started a fashion blog, but this was long before the term "influencer" was used. I really loved sharing photos of the way I'd style things, but I also loved writing the posts just as much. I've had an affinity for writing since I was in grade school and I've been writing little poems for family members for a long time. During the time when I had a blog, sharing my thoughts relating to fashion was something I really enjoyed, but I couldn't imagine taking photos for my fashion blog for a long time because I was never really that comfortable with it. As my chronic illness started to naturally decline and progress, my blog wasn't something I physically could pursue any longer, but I also wasn't mentally drawn to it either. I really wanted to write for other outlets and decided to share my journey through my writing.
AT: Your journey is one for the books. Mother of two kids, newly married and battling Cystic Fibrosis while awaiting for a double lung transplant. Talk to me about how all of this has come together to help you find your voice and artistic mission.
LMF: My kids and my family are my whole world, they are what motivate me the most, to fight my battle against CF as hard as I fight it. Cystic fibrosis is a horrific disease and people often don't understand the severity of it and its destruction. But by being transparent I hope to help others realize that there is still the possibility of having an amazing life in the midst of struggle. I love that I've had the opportunity to write for the CF Foundation and speak as their ambassador to raise money for research and a cure.
AT: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Tell me about the spark moment when you realized you could do this for real.
LMF: I have thought in the past about the possibility of writing a book one day but never knew what I wanted to write about. Once I started writing the poems for this book it felt like I couldn't write them fast enough. I loved the process of creating it and each poem feels really special to me because it's either about someone I personally know, something that happened or something my kids said. At first, it was really only going to be for my son and daughter, but it grew into something more than that and they were excited for other people to read my poems too.
AT: What do you love about making things?
LMF: I love the process of an idea that turns into something. Especially ones that take all types of detours and turns because the final product is even more special to me. When I had my clothing line, I loved when I would finally see the finished product of a vision I had. With poetry, it's cathartic to get my thoughts out on paper that form from a simple word or thought. Being able to create a poetic story that makes my heart full is the best feeling, and if other people can relate to it or find comfort in it in any way, then it's even better.
AT: I love your book The Sky Cracked Open. It sort of reminds me of my old Shel Silverstein books but with a lighthearted, warm tone to it. Tell me more about what inspired you to write this collection of poetry.
LMF: Thank you so much! Shel Silverstein is a huge inspiration and I've been reading all of his books to my kids since they were babies. They'd pick poems at random and we read them so many times the book is frayed and falling apart. My son told me one night that I should make a "real book" for all my poems too. The idea kind of just stuck, and I started taking notes in my phone of the funny or random things they would say or do and then turn them into poems. As I started compiling them, I realized I wanted to write 65 poems to coincide with the 65 Roses nickname for cystic fibrosis, and I wanted to write a book of poems filled with hope and optimism and share my thoughts and point of view with others. CF has taught me not to take anything for granted and to really appreciate the things in life that truly matter. This book was ultimately something that I just really wanted to write for and dedicate to my kids.
AT: Do you still read poetry each night to your kids? What are their favorite poems?
LMF: I still try to read them poems each night, but it's getting harder since they are getting so much older and with quarantining and summer vacation they are staying up so late now! Ha! I barely have my eyes open by the time they're finally tired. But they always read my book and ask me to read it to them too. My son's favorite is French Fry Guy because it's his illustration, and my daughter's is The Lady and Her Unicorn since it's about her.
AT: On that note, who inspires you?
LMF: Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl and of course they also grew up on Dr. Seuss. The classics were always a favorite! My kids inspire me daily, and Stevie Nicks and her writing and creativity always has.
AT: Quarantine is hard enough for your average human -- how has this pandemic affected your day to day? How are you managing your health, kids, home and career during this surreal time? What advice or insights about sheltering in place can you share?
LMF: Quarantine has made our lives very hard in so many ways. My health is extremely fragile and isolating is something we all need to take very seriously, and truthfully it's all been excruciatingly difficult. Being this sick, waiting for a lung transplant, parenting, and the threat of covid is not something I really have the right words for, other than it's been completely life-changing, for all of us, in a very drastic way. I just try to focus on the positive which is all the extra family time we've gotten to spend together. I always thought I would be able to spend a lot of time with family and friends during the time I awaited my call for transplant, so to have that taken away because of covid has been heartbreaking. I can only try to remain positive and be grateful for what I do have, and dream of a future with better health and far less suffering and struggling for everyone.
AT: What does your support system look like? How does your community help you thrive even in the hardest of times?
LMF: I have the most amazing husband and thankfully he's also an RN. To have his help and expertise in medicine through this is something I feel very fortunate to have. My parents and sister are involved in every possible way and I'm extremely grateful for the amount of love and help and we have from both sides of our families. I've received so many thoughtful notes and messages from people in my community and they've truly gotten me through some very hard times.
AT: When you need to give yourself a pep talk, what does it sound like?
LMF: Everything happens for a reason. That might sound dumb to some people, but honestly it's helped me my entire life. I live very much in the present moment, so I just have to trust my journey and accept things as they are and push for the things I want. And I want to be here for my kids, so they motivate me every day to make it through this.
Buy The Sky Cracked Open, and follow @laurenmfierst + @ahippiesdaughter for more about Lauren's journey. To read more stories of creative trailblazers and inspiring women, check out the Creative Crushin' archive.